WASHINGTON — Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) subpoenaed the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General on Wednesday for material related to the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wis. The facility has been the focus of allegations of overprescription of opioids, veterans’ deaths, and a culture of fear and retaliation among employees. Chairman Johnson’s committee is investigating those allegations.
In 2014, the VA Office of Inspector General completed a multiyear health care inspection of the facility. The inspector general’s inspection was administratively closed without the report being made public. Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old veteran, died just months after the inspection was closed. During a field hearing in Tomah in March 2015, a former pharmacist at the facility testified that the inspector general’s nonpublic closure of the inspection “led to continued harm to our nation’s veterans.”
The subpoena, to Deputy Inspector General Richard J. Griffin, compels the production of material gathered and reviewed by the inspector general during its health care inspection. The subpoena follows several weeks of efforts by the committee to obtain the inspector general’s voluntary cooperation while protecting veteran-specific medical information. The subpoena cover letter notes the committee’s continued desire to protect veteran-specific medical information.
Chairman Johnson said, “Issuing this subpoena to the VA Inspector General was a last resort, but it is needed to get to the bottom of these tragedies. It is past time for the VA Inspector General to be transparent and accountable, and to show its work on its Tomah health care inspection. I will continue to fight to get answers and, if appropriate, hold people accountable for what happened in Tomah.”